Atop the Shoulders of Giants
The Gnomish Cities
“The Gnomish Cities” are three cities beneath the Kingdom of Golir which are – by and large – populated by gnomes. The cities do not have a central government between the three of them, making political relations with them difficult, especially for surface-dwellers.
Sviren, the largest of the three cities, is also easily the most wealthy. Sviren occupies a sizeable cavern system fairly near to The Chasm – the most central access point for most of the communities beneath Golir. In fact, in order to access the other two cities from the Chasm, one must either travel through Sviern, or return to the surface near the Capital City of Golir and re-enter the underground as far away as the Lisil province.
Aside from being the largest and wealthiest, Sviren is also the most militant of the three cities. While the other two cities did away with most of their visitor provisions, Sviren still holds on to a requirement that visitors wear special steel wristbands while they are in the city that mark them as an outsider – and in some cases even force visitors to surrender all weapons before entering the city. Furthermore, for anyone within Sviren obeying the law is a very serious matter. Though their laws are – by most standards – not outrageously restrictive, the punishments meted out are rather definitive. Stealing results in a proportional loss of one’s arm compared to the amount of value stolen, such that just a few coins can mean a finger, a few hunderd can mean a hand, and a thousand takes off one’s elbow.
Sviren is ruled over by a single gnome (it must be a gnome by law) elected by popular vote to rule for life. When it comes time for an election, the military is responsible for collecting and counting the votes, leading many to joke (quietly) that really the city is ruled by a single gnome, appointed by the Grand Commander.
Sviren’s primary trade is just that – trade. It is a hub of mercantile activity, and though it controls three separate mines the city still makes the majority of its communal wealth in general trade goods and mercantile taxes.
Milen is the closest of the Gnomish cities to the surface, lying only a four day trek from the city of Lisil on the most popular paths. However Milen is also the closest of the cities to the Sahuagin lake – a large underground lake populated by Sahuagin who like to attack and rob travelers who stray too near their territory.
Milen is considered the most inviting of the Gnomish Cities for outsiders, but also one of the more dangerous. Milen’s military force is incredibly small, and has a difficult time enforcing the peace – and though the community is not particularly violent or crime-ridden, what crime does go on usually goes unanswered in any official capacity. This has lead to a common trend in Milen of private guards or bounty hunter style justice for those who can afford to hire guards or bounty hunters.
Despite this somewhat dangerous reputation, Milen is a fairly prosperous community, and is easily the most racially diverse of the three cities. Aside from its overwhelming majority population of gnomes, Milen is home to about two score dwarves, around a hundred humans, a few hundred goblins, and a small handful of elves. Notably, this about 480 resident non-gnomes still makes Milen the most racially diverse of the three cities.
In terms of trade Milen is best known for its crystals. One of the adjoining caverns of Milen contains a number of very large quartz formations, and given that quartz has become a popular inexpensive decorative stone in Golir and Keland this has lead to a steady increase in community income for Milen.
Milen is ruled by a hereditary monarchy. Unlike many monarchies, however, Milen does not hold a concept of the noble class for its rulers, and only a very small fraction of taxes actually go to the monarch itself – while the majority of tax money is explicitly reserved for various public projects. Historically speaking anytime a monarch tried to alter this balance in the destination of tax money riots broke out across the city.
Arnilen is easily the smallest of the Gnomish Cities. Arnilen was founded by people who would be described as “politically obsessed” by residents of Sviren and Milen, but who would more aptly have described themselves as “politically rational.” Arnilen is a community founded by a group of about 300 gnomes, lead by a woman called Gilda Arnilen who wanted to shape a community into what she saw as the ideal life.
In Arnilen, residents are not allowed to practice just any profession they choose. Rather, they must submit themselves to Profession Testing after which they are given a short list of options to choose from based on their proclivities. They may then, throughout their life, practice any of the professions they have been deemed suited for as they please, but no others. Naturally, they do not outlaw helping a friend or family member with their work on occasion, but there are monetary penalties for those who spend too much time on a profession they are not supposed to be practicing.
In fact, monetary penalties are the only penalty for most offenses in Arnilen. The only crimes that are punished with violence are those committed with violence. However, in a twist that is quite upsetting to many outsiders, violent crimes are punished with an exact replication of the crime upon the person who committed it. So, for example, a murderer who hacked another person to death with an axe would be killed by repeated blows with an axe, whereas one who killed someone with poison would be dosed with the same poison (if available). This has actually lead to an odd trend in Arnilen where a much higher percentage of violent crimes are committed in ways that are nearly painless for the victim, simply to avoid the possibility of a painful death in case the perpetrator is caught afterward.
Furthermore with regards to the non-violent crimes, however, there is a stipulation in Arnilen law that no one may be penalized in a way that removes their ability to afford food and housing, but that penalties must be proportional to the crime committed. This means that people who steal very large sums of money in Arnilen are often penalized by having all their income confiscated for a certain number of years and having all their expenses handled by a representative of the city – meaning the convict may continue to live and practice their craft, but is not allowed any spending money for years on end.
Arnilen’s primary commerce with outside sources is actually agricultural. In some of Arnilens deepest caverns underground rivers provide opportunities to grow much larger quantities of food than communities such as Sviren and Milen manage to grow, even with twice the amount of space to grow it in. This has lead to Sviern and Milen using their own agricultural areas to cultivate crops commonly used in more profitable crafts and relying on Arnilen to provide food in exchange for trade goods and various services. Despite its strange laws, Arnilen has maintained a community of around 2500-3000 residents for several generations now.